Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Laws of Attraction: Mangrove Killifish Style

A mangrove killifish. Photo by D. Scott Taylor at Wikimedia.
In the game of love, we typically think of males as being the showy courting sex and females being the coy choosy sex. But what if your species doesn't have the simple division of males and females?

Most populations of animal species (and most notably our own) are roughly half male and half female, so this is the standard we tend to accept as "normal". In this common system, males generally invest less in each potential offspring than do females (in physical resources, parental time and risk), so they can afford to make a few poor mate choices in favor of having more mates over time. Females, on the other hand, have a lot more to lose and benefit from being picky about whom they chose to mate with. But this half-male/half-female system is not the only way to divide reproductive responsibilities... And how these responsibilities are divided can dramatically affect who is choosing whom.

This week I am at Accumulating Glitches pondering how a species' mating system influences how choosy it is in picking a mate. Specifically, we think about mate choice in the mangrove killifish, a species with males and hermaphrodites, but no females. It's a quirky system (by our standards), but it works! Check it out here.

And to learn more, check this out:

Ellison, A., Jones, J., Inchley, C., & Consuegra, S. (2013). Choosy males could help explain androdioecy in a selfing fish The American Naturalist, 181 (6), 855-862 DOI: 10.1086/670304

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